After Obama's cybersecurity order threatens Snowden fund, bitcoin donations spike

A new executive order is said to have made it illegal to donate to Edward Snowden's fund, which didn't go down so well with one good-spirited community.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2014.
(Image via CNET)

A new executive order signed into law this week by the president has one online community up in arms, after its loose wording effectively ruled out donating to Edward Snowden and others.

In a post on Reddit's Bitcoin subreddit, members pledged to donate to the whistleblower's relief fund, despite the wording of the new executive order suggesting that doing so was illegal.

In the new executive order, signed into law on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama declared cyber-threats aimed at the US a "national emergency." The order threatens sanctions against those (including US residents) who engage in cyberattacks and espionage activities that threaten US interests at home and abroad.

The wording of the order specifically addresses any person whose "property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States."

Redditors were quick to assume (likely correctly) that this includes Edward Snowden, who for more than a year-and-a-half has lived in Russia, evading US justice.

"This is almost as bad as the Patriot Act," said the user who first posted the thread.

Snowden, a 31-year-old former US government contractor, fled the US to Hong Kong and on to Russia after leaking tens of thousands of classified documents pertaining to the National Security Agency's surveillance operations.

Within days, he outed himself, and was subsequently charged with espionage. But in a recent "ask me anything" on Reddit, Snowden regretted only one thing: "I would have come forward sooner," he said.

Regardless of the threat of sanctions, one Reddit user Kristopher Ives said he donated to the Snowden fund in bitcoin, a virtual currency used online.

In a comment on the thread, Ives, who lives in Lafayette, Oregon, called the donation a "matter of principle." He also posted his phone number, and called on the authorities to "come arrest me." (We're not linking to the post for his privacy.)

In a follow-up Medium post, he said: "It's an intentionally complicated situation as Bitcoin could be considered property or money depending on what governmental agency you ask; and some people would consider it speech considering it's simply a protocol."

Hundreds of others have also donated to the Snowden fund over the past few days, ranging from a few cents to thousands of dollars.

At the time of writing, more than 50 transactions have been made on the Snowden fund's bitcoin account, which saw an unprecedented spike earlier this year with the wider release of the documentary, "Citizenfour," filmed and directed by Laura Poitras.

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